Bishop: Talks Are Still 'Active' in Clergy Sexual Abuse Cases

By Tom Mashberg
Boston Herald
April 26, 2003

The interim chief of the Archdiocese of Boston insisted yesterday that settlement talks with clergy plaintiffs are "active" despite lamentations from accusers' lawyers that efforts are stalled.

"I don't know what those particular attorneys were referring to," Bishop Richard G. Lennon said at a Waltham news conference after he launched the church's latest fund drive, Catholic Appeal 2003.

"I cannot address the specifics, but active conversations are ongoing at this time regarding coverage issues by insurance companies."

In recent days, lawyers for more than 300 alleged victims of priests have told their clients to get ready for civil trials in Suffolk Superior Court on the clergy abuse claims.

Attorney Jeffrey A. Newman of Greenberg Traurig, whose firm represents about 250 alleged victims and who has taken a lead role in the negotiations, said trial is likely because talks are proving fruitless.

"We've now written our clients describing the fact that this is now at a standstill and we now have to re-gear to litigate the claims," he said, adding, "We have not been given a choice in that regard"

Newman and other civil lawyers agreed with the church to a 90-day moratorium on litigation in February so they could focus on a "global" settlement for the suits.

Also taking part in the settlement talks were attorneys for the church's two main insurance carriers and two outside mediators. But attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has some 100 clients of his own, did not agree to the talks and has pressed ahead with his clients' civil suits against the Roman Catholic Church, alleging negligent oversight of child molesters.

"There's a `stand down period,' yet the archdiocese is intensely active in trying to get these cases thrown out of court," he said.

While kicking off the church's fund-raising drive yesterday in Waltham, Lennon went out of his way to note that none of the money raised will be used to pay settlement costs.

Lennon has set the appeal's minimum goal at $9 million for 2003, up from $8.6 million last year - a year in which the abuse revelations drove away donors - but down from $16.2 million in 2001.

Elizabeth Jennings-White, the church's development officer, said the archdiocese would need to raise $14 million to restore programs that have been cut.


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